Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has hailed ‘fantastic’ emerging talent Reece James, who became the club’s youngest-ever Champions League goalscorer when he struck the equaliser in a dramatic 4-4 draw against Ajax at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night.
James, who made his senior Chelsea debut earlier this season, replaced Marcos Alonso at half-time when Ajax were leading 3-1 and went on to score the goal in the final 15 minutes that earned his side a crucial point on a bizarre night.
“Reece is a fantastic young player. He gives what you saw, and he will get much better because he’s 19,” Lampard explained in post-match comments published by Chelsea’s official website.
The Chelsea boss wanted more from right-back than Cesar Azpilicueta was able to give, opting switch the Spaniard to the left when Alonso left the pitch.
“I felt we needed to change to get a bit more for us on the right-hand side. Reece can deliver crosses with great quality. He’s powerful and joins in. He knows we have Azpi there, our captain, but there are things we can do to change sometimes,” Lampard said.
“He’s going to be a top player for the club. He’s got great quality. When you look at the modern full-back, the requirement to go forward and be a threat, hopefully Reece can do that for us.”
More generally, Lampard was delighted with the fight and spirit he saw from his players.
After half-time, the deficit increased to 4-1 before it got better. But Azpilicueta and Jorginho scored either side of Ajax having two players sent off, with James getting Chelsea’s fourth in the 74th minute. Rather incredibly for a game that produced eight goals, none came at the very end.
“Take VAR out of it, and the red cards. What I have to think about is us,” Lampaid said.
“The spirit we showed, the character, is something I loved and I think the fans loved. We need to tighten up for sure, but with that spirit we can go places.”